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Thursday, July 25, 2024

US Congress okays $900-b relief package

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WASHINGTON—US lawmakers on Monday approved a $900-billion relief package for the world’s biggest economy that will provide a long-sought boost for millions of Americans and businesses battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Overwhelming approval in the Senate and House of Representatives  cleared the way for the legislation to be sent to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.

Trump signed a stopgap measure early Tuesday to keep the federal government funded until December 28 and avert a shutdown.

“The American people can rest assured that more help is on the way, immediately,” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said on Twitter.

As the COVID-19 death count rises amid a massive coronavirus resurgence that further threatens the economy, Republican and Democratic legislators have finally hammered out a bill after months of wrangling and partisan finger-pointing.

The deal will spare millions of jobless workers who were days away from seeing their unemployment benefits expire, and provide  a new round of cash payouts.

Small businesses will benefit from more government grants, while the package also includes rental assistance and help to families facing eviction.

“It’s a good bipartisan deal,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “We will do some good with this legislation.”

But “as President-elect Joe Biden has said, it’s a first step, and we will need to do more. More to get virus assistance to crush the virus. More money to buy vaccines,” she said on the House floor.

The US is facing the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak, and cases have surged in recent months, threatening a tentative economic recovery. The death toll has topped 319,000.

Recent data showed retail sales slowed heading into the usually-strong holiday shopping season, while new applications for unemployment benefits have risen for four of the past five weeks after months of declines. AFP

The massive package is part of a $2.3-trillion “coronabus” bill that includes a so-called omnibus bill to fund the government for the coming year.

The measure will include a new round of pandemic relief payments, and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the $600 checks will go out as early as next week.

That amounts to “$2,400 for a family of four, so much needed relief just in time for the holidays,” Mnuchin said Monday on CNBC.

While the direct payments are only half the amount provided by the $2.2-trillion CARES Act that Congress approved in March, Mnuchin said it is a “very fast way of getting money into the economy.”

The $600 payments go to Americans earning less than $75,000 a year, and will be reduced for higher incomes, while those who bring home $99,000 or more will not get a check.

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